How to Deal with Creative Lulls in Your Job

lightbulb in a wood roomLet’s face it; it’s not every day that we get to come up with the next big thing or have that intense epiphany we always see on television shows like Mad Men.

The truth is, no matter how passionate you are about your job, you are bound to deal with the monotony and formalities that go with it–paper filing, formal agenda meetings, client demands, etc.

Don’t get us wrong: this can be frustrating. And for the creative types who crave a constant influx of ideas and the next big thing, a creative lull can be stifling. So: how should we deal with that?

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5 Ways to Be a Better Coworker

drawing on a whiteboardAsk most people and they’ll tell you that teamwork is the backbone of any good company.

Of course, it’s not always easy to be a great team member. But being a good coworker is absolutely essential if you want to have a successful career. Here are 5 ways to be a better coworker day in and day out:

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5 Ways Employees Can Handle Productivity Decline

Yesterday we brought a compilation of tips for employers to amp up productivity over the holidays and avoid burnout. In honor of the giving season, here are some helpful tips to help employees maintain productivity and stay focused this holiday season.

5 Ways Employers Can Handle Productivity Decline

Every year, as the winter holidays approach, the steady upbeat hums of the workplace become a bit meeker and the steady flow of progress slows to a dull roar in what has come to be known as the holiday productivity slump. With bellies full and approaching holiday celebrations at the front of everyone’s minds, it can become difficult to focus and stay on task. This time of year also marks the annual scurry of wrapping up annual strategic goals and planning for the year ahead. With planning comes the realization of things undone and things to do, which can lead to burnout.

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3 Ways to Get Employees Prepared for the Summer

summer

Summer may not officially be here, but with the weather getting warmer and warmer, it’s safe to say that most of us are ready to get out and enjoy the sun.

This can be difficult during the workweek. When employees are stuck in the office, it’s not uncommon to see decreases in productivity and efficiency as everyone does a little daydreaming about the outdoors.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can avoid this issue. To show you, here are three tips on how to get your employees prepared for the summer and ensure that they stay as productive as possible.

  • Rethink your summer schedule. Depending on the business, you might find that your summer hours have slowed down. As such, now might be a great time to consider changing your office hours or providing a flexible schedule.

    For example, Gwen Gulick, an associate director at Harvard Business Publishing, suggests giving your employees the option to leave early one day –like on Friday, for an early weekend –if they get all their work done. Incentives like these can give you the best of both worlds, because they keep your employees happy by allowing them time to enjoy the weather, and also ensure that they’re staying on top of their game.

  • Bring the office outdoors. No one says that you have always conduct your business inside. Consider taking your meetings or brainstorming sessions outdoors where employees can clear their minds and get a breath of fresh air that will help energize them.

    You can also try letting them bring their laptops to an outdoor area with wi-fi (such as a café) on certain days of the week, suggest places with an outdoor patio where they can have their lunch, or even start the trend of taking a simple walk around the block during breaks. Anything you can offer to get them outdoors is a great bonus.

  • After-Hours Outdoor Events. Company picnics don’t always sound glamorous, but they are certainly a great way to get employees outdoors. You can also suggest to your employees the idea of getting together for company sponsored sports team (i.e. basketball or softball). This is a great way to help coworkers connect, build on teamwork, and enjoy some time outdoors.

Have any tips you’d like to add to our list? Let us know by connecting with us on Facebook or Twitter!

photo credit: Sprengben [why not get a friend] via photopin cc

Dealing with Difficult Clients (Part II)

Yesterday, we gave you part one of our two-part series on dealing with difficult clients, outlining several types of challenging clients you might come across such as the micromanager, the frequent mind-changer, and the “vague client,” or the client who doesn’t know what they want.

As we mentioned, dealing with a difficult client can put you as an employer in a tight spot. Not only can it be frustrating and possibly a waste of your time, it can also lead to employee dissatisfaction.

Now that you have an idea of what kind of challenging clients you might run into, here are a few ways you can deal with them. Take a look below:

Communicate frequently. Try to keep your client involved throughout the creative process. This prevents clients such as the mind-changer or the “vague client” from being unhappy with the work once you’ve already completed, and helps you avoid wasting your own company’s time.

Establish boundaries. The last thing you want to do with difficult clients, especially the micromanagers, is tell them you’ll do whatever it takes to make them happy. Not only can this put an extreme amount of stress on you and your team, it can also lead to too high of expectations from your client, which you know you can’t possibly meet.

In short, there is no problem with telling your client “no.” Being up front about what you can and cannot do helps to diffuse any potential crisis that could occur.

Alternatively, you could say “yes” to your client, but if you know that the work requires significantly more attention than normal, you shouldn’t be afraid to work out a new deal that includes this extra work.

Show them that you are there to help. Above all, when dealing with any client, difficult or not, be confident. You are the expert, which is why they hired you in the first place, so show them that you know what you are doing and that you are there to help them. Making them feel like you are there to help lessen the burden of what they need to have done will make things go much smoother for you and them.

When to let go

While not the most ideal solution, sometimes you just have to let go. Weigh the pros and cons of having that client around; if it looks like they’re taking more than they’re giving you in return–and causing a headache for you and your employees–then maybe it is time to say goodbye.

Explain to them that perhaps you’re just not right for the project or task. Just make sure you do it in a civilized manner, though; you always want to be on good terms with anyone you work with, even if things don’t work out.

No one wants a dissatisfied client, but forcing yourself to deal with them can potentially lead you to some bad results. These suggestions won’t help you with every last problem you encounter, but should certainly help get you on the right track.

Have you ever had a difficult client? How did you handle the situation? Share your story by connecting with us on Facebook or Twitter!

3 Ways a Two-Way Approach to Management Can Help Boost Productivity

“My way or the highway” tends to be the management model in many workplace environments, with leaders doing all the talking and employees doing much of the listening.

However, despite its popularity in many workplaces, this “one-way” mantra is not the kind of advice we’d suggest to most business. Employees have valuable things to say, and a lot of the time, what they say can be give employers great insight into how things should run. Needless to say, employees are often underutilized in larger businesses as far as input is concerned.

To show you what we mean, we’ve outlined three reasons why your relationship with your employees should be like a two-way street. Take a look below:

Letting employees construtively criticize you can make you a better leader

Those under you are the ones who are affected the most by your leadership, so it only seems right that they should have a say in how you manage them.

Thoughtful criticism and positive feedback can make a big difference in how you manage your team. In turn, you and your team will be more in sync, allowing for a more productive use of time.

Just like you constructively criticize your employees to help them improve, employees should be able to do the same to you.

More opinions can help the creative process and big picture thinking

Your role as a leader/employer is usually to think of the big picture, often handing down the final process to your employees once everything is set in stone.

But employees can have important things to say as well, and can often enhance the creative process if you let them. By utilizing the diversity of your team, you can push your creative boundaries further and further.

Not only will this allow you to gain a better perspective on how your team works, but it also gives you the opportunity to gain more insight into how your company works. Each and every member of your team has a specific function that helps to contribute to the company’s overall success, so why not let them contribute to the discussion?

Letting employees speak up helps to avoid crises

Employees are usually supposed to do as they’re told. So when it comes time to speak up about an issue in regards to a certain process or situation, they often shy away and just slip things under the rug until it finally creeps up later, leading to some pretty disastrous results.

To avoid this, you need to break the away from the “be quiet and do as you’re told” approach to business. Let your employees feel comfortable speaking up about a potential hazard–doing so can end up saving you a lot of grief.

Taking the time to ensure that your employees’ satisfaction is taken into consideration is one of the key steps to maintaining a successful business and being a good manager. We believe the workplace should be a mutually beneficial environment, so drop the “my way or the highway” approach and opt for the two-way street method instead. With that approach, you and your employees should both end up getting much better results.

4 Reasons Why a Transparent Work Environment is Essential

In our post on 3 Ways to Help your Employees Understand the Big Picture, we mentioned the concept of being open with your employees and letting them know the ins and outs of the company.

What that really means is a transparent work environment.

Workplace transparency, or corporate transparency is when an organization makes their actions “observable by outsiders.” In a transparent work environment, decisions and other operations are open to employees, stakeholders, and shareholders. And in some instances, companies may choose to even go as far as providing information to the general public.

Several companies have committed themselves to providing a transparent work environment, believing that all of those involved in their company benefit greatly from it. In that vein, we thought that it could be useful to highlight several reasons why you should have a transparent work environment.

Take a look below:

Transparency enhances your company culture.

We’ve already talked about what it can do to your employer branding, but more specifically, transparency can do a lot for your company culture. Transparency helps to foster a relationship up and down the workplace ladder. Because all operations are made public, employees feel included in the decision-making process rather than simply receiving orders from the higher-ups.

“Transparency breeds trust.”

In an interview with Inc. Magazine, Joel Gascoigne, co-founder of the social media software application Buffer, argues that transparency is a great way to build trust among your employees, which can also do wonders for enhancing your company culture.

Transparency affects services and productivity.

Along with the two reasons above, transparency does a lot to affect the services and productivity/creativity of your employees. Employees are more likely to feel invested in a company that they completely understand, which increases their willingness to be more productive and contribute to the company’s goals.

And, if employees are happy about what they see and understand, they will most likely represent your company in a good light, which makes a great impression on customers and potential candidates. 

Transparency means no surprises. 

A transparent work environment also eliminates the fear of receiving backlash for speaking out. Rather than letting problems slowly creep up and then explode, employees in a transparent work environment will feel comfortable relaying their problems, helping you avoid any disasters that can prove costly to your company’s profit and image.

At AIM Careerlink, we provide you with the ultimate tools for finding the best talent around. We are also committed to helping you maintain that talent, which is why we provide you with advice and tips like the ones above. If you have any questions or comments. let us know by connecting with us on Facebook or Twitter!

When to Reassess Your Company Culture (And How to Change It): Part II

Yesterday, we gave you a few tips on how often you should assess your company culture. Today, we’re going to finish our two-part post and talk about how to change your company culture for the better.

Here are a few important things to do when trying to change your company culture:

Be honest.

One very important thing when it comes to successfully changing your company culture is honesty. Be honest with yourself: is your company culture getting in the way of your organization’s goals or mission?

Consider every angle and never oversimplify the problems in front of you–sugarcoating won’t get you anywhere. Rather, show your employees that this change is for the better by rewarding those who are willing to help you change. And, for those struggling with the change, it might be a good time for them to re-think their place in the company.

The blunt truth can go a long way when it comes to making big changes. Just take a look at Stephen Edwards’–CEO of the fast food chain Così–approach when it came to turning his company around. His method? Brutal honesty.

Start from the top.

Changing your company culture should start with how your leadership functions.

Assess what kind of culture you want your company to have, and show your employees how to go about working towards those goals. Whether you’re the CEO or a basic team leader, you need to set the standards for your employees–not the other way around.

Show that you are authentic by putting yourself out there, implementing the change yourself.

Above all, communicate.

As we’ve mentioned before, communication is absolutely critical. If you’re not doing your part to communicate how you want your company culture to change, then chances are that your changes will fall flat. So show your employees that you’re serious.

We’ve already mentioned rewarding your employees for making an effort. Here are some other things to consider:

  • Ask them what they think. This is one is easy. Ask them what works and what doesn’t. How do they see these changes affecting them? Good or bad? Your employees’ opinions are important.
  • Ask them often. Don’t wait for annual reviews before you see if things begin to change. As we mentioned in our last post, some would even argue for reviews every six months.
  • Rank your priorities. Make sure that everyone is on the same page by giving them a list of what is most important to you and what changes you really want to see, and let them know why they rank this way.

Changing your company culture can be a long and arduous process, especially if you haven’t had a good change or assessment in a while. But company culture is an absolutely critical element of any successful organization, so if you need to make any changes, now is as good of a time as ever.

We hope that these tips can help make that process easier. If you have any questions or comments, let us know your thoughts by connecting with us on Facebook or Twitter.

When to Reassess Your Company Culture (And How to Change It): Part I

We talk about company culture a lot–and for good reason.

Having a company culture that is both fun and efficient can do wonders with helping your company grow.

Unfortunately, many companies are unsure about where to start. In this two-part post, we’re going to give you a quick guide on when to reassess your company culture, and how to change it for the better.

How often should you be thinking about your company culture?

Believe it or not, you really should be thinking about your company culture all the time. Ideally, you should always be on the lookout for ways to improve your company.

But that doesn’t mean that you should fret over every little thing and try to change things with the snap of your fingers. Instead, think about keeping a list of notes on what you think should be changed about your company culture.

This makes it easier to map out what changes are absolutely necessary, and what changes would be a plus, but can wait. In turn, changes to company culture will be executed in a much more efficient manner, giving you the maximum benefits.

With that in mind, here are signs that it may be time to reassess your company culture:

Your company is expanding and becoming more diverse.

As your company gets bigger and diversifies, so will your company culture. If this happens, start thinking about your goals and mission, and see if they match the direction you find your company evolving towards.

Your company is struggling with communication.

Communication is key to running an efficient company, and one way to ensure that your employees are communicating properly is through having a great company culture with clear ideals and goals. If you see a lack of communication amongst your employees, that may be an indication that it’s time to change the way you operate daily.

One branch of your company is excelling, while others aren’t.

If you see that one branch of yours doing much better than the others, try to find the source. Although it obviously could be any number of things, you shouldn’t rule out company culture as a source of tension. Is there too much stress on employees, or not enough organization to get things done? Many of the sources you’ll find can actually be traced back to a problem with the culture at work.

There’s no magic date or number when it comes to reassessing (some companies assess every six months), but we think it should happen somewhat frequently. Keeping your company culture up to date is a great way to help improve your organization.

Check back tomorrow when we talk about how to change your company culture. In the mean time, if you have any questions or comments, let us know by connecting with us on Facebook or Twitter!